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COA affirms TPR dispositional order applying well-settled standard of review

State v. S.A., 2023AP1288-1292, 10/10/23, District I (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

In a fact-dependent decision, COA affirms the circuit court’s order terminating parental rights with respect to 5 children.

After exhaustively laying out the sad underlying facts in this TPR appeal over the span of 12 pages, COA begins its legal analysis by acknowledging that a deferential review of discretionary decisions–such as the decision to terminate a person’s parental rights–still requires the lower court to give an explanation, a justification, or to demonstrate an otherwise explicable process of reasoning in connection with its ultimate decision. (¶24). With respect to a dispositional order in a TPR, the record must reflect that the lower court gave “adequate consideration of and weight” to the statutorily-mandated factors in § 48.426(3).  (¶23).

Here, however, “Sherry” fails to prove that the lower court erroneously exercised her discretion. She argues, unsuccessfully, “that when [the circuit court] weighed the evidence against the factors, it should have weighed more heavily Sherry’s recent efforts to continue as a significant factor in the children’s lives, her strides in addressing the issues that led to the children’s removal, and that she loves her children and wants them returned to her.” (¶25). COA identifies two problems with this line of argument. First, it conflates the best interests of the parent with the best interests of the children. (¶26). Second, it is essentially a request that COA reweigh the factors on appeal, despite evidence that “the circuit court considered the standard and all statutory factors in determining what was in each child’s best interest.” (¶27). Under the discretionary standard of review, her arguments are therefore summarily rejected and COA affirms.

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